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Monday, December 29, 2008

Where Was The Outrage?

I hear words like "collective punishment" and "massacre" and other highly emotive forms of rhetoric emanating from Palestinian spokemen and their counterparts in the Western Left enclaves.

No one should have to bury their children.

To the extent that children and other noncombatants die in wars, it is tragic.

But the utter hypocrisy of this week's utterances boggles the mind.

"Collective punishment?" Let's talk about years of rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilian villages and cities.

"Innocent civilians." Yes, a redundancy, but where was the outrage when Israel's civilian met bloody death literally on their doorsteps? I'm not talking about Israelis who lived in harm's way in Gush Katif. I'm talking about women and children who lived quietly in their homes in Israel proper.

What about Faina Slutzker, a Jewish woman married to her Moslem husband -- certainly a person who embodied peaceful coexistence?

And Dana Galkowitz, a communications student enrolled in nearby Sapir College, whose campus has borne the brunt of numerous rocket attacks. She had returned to her boyfriend's home in Netiv Ha'asara, north of the Gaza Strip, early one evening because she was tired. She was sitting the porch when the rocket, launched from Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, exploded next to her. She was killed instantly. She was 22 years old.

What about Afik Zahavi, killed by a Hamas rocket attack while being taken to nursery school by his mother? He was four years old, his mother's only child.

Dorit Benisian was even younger. She was outside, playing with her cousin, when the rocket attack killed them both. Her family described her as a child who was always happy, who shared what little she owned with her brothers and sisters. She was playing right in front of her grandmother's home, where she and her cousin had come to visit, when she was killed.

Dorit's cousin, Yuval, was only four when he was slaughtered by Palestinian rockets. They didn't die a quick and painless death. Both children suffered massive injuries and both died shortly afterwards in the hospital. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded thirty other people.

Ayala Abukasis died protecting her younger brother, Tamir, during a rocket barrage on Sderot. She was 17 years old. She and her brother had gone to pay a condolence call to another family. Ayala had acted as the guardian of her younger brother from the outset of the Palestinian rocket attacks. She accompanied him everywhere, slept alongside him, waited outside the bathroom for him and went with him to the computer on the second floor of the family's home. Ayalah and Tamir were with friends when the siren sounded, giving them 20 seconds warning of an incoming missile from Gaza. They did not have time to take cover, so Ayala shielded Tamir, who escaped with relatively minor wounds when the rocket fell and exploded alongside them, and she was fatally wounded. She died from massive injuries at the hospital, three days after the attack.

These are not the only victims. There are more dead and wounded. The man in the parking lot at Sapir College, who was going to school at night, while working in the day time, so that he could earn more to support his family. The grandfather killed while sitting on the bench next to his grandchildren's nursery school where Afik Zahavi was slaughtered by an incoming rocket. A nursery school child and a grandfather, both killed in the same attack. The delivery driver who decided it was important to make sure supplies reached Sderot, who was killed when a missile slammed into the ground beside his truck. His wife had begged him not to drive to Sderot. A grandmother visiting her family; a woman from Thailand employed at a kibbutz; a factory worker massacred when rockets crashed into his factory.

These are the ordinary people of Israel who have lived in terror for years. Where was the outrage then? Where were the indignant calls for "an immediate cease-fire" directed against the Palestinians? Where were the orchestrated "spontaneous" demonstrations (complete with expensive, identical, mass-printed, colorful placards demonizing Israel)calling for an end to these "massacres?" Where were the heads of state rushing to condemn the incessant rocket and mortar attacks deliberately aimed at civilian townships?

These attacks have gone on for years, and have only one purpose: "Our resistance to occupation in Palestine continues, and will not cease under any circumstances….the al-Qassem Brigades will continue the march for the total liberation of the soil of their beloved homeland of Palestine, from the sea to the river." This is not some old sixties rant by Arafat. This is Hamas policy, enunciated by Ahmad al-Jaabari in 2006 on Hamas's own website.

Got that? No Israel. No Jewish state. No self-determination for Jews. No adherence to the League of Nations mandate or the U.N. resolutions creating two states for two peoples.

Hamas and the people they represent want genocide. It is their political platform. The fact that Hamas is the "duly elected" representative of the people in Gaza does not make them sacrosanct--it only shows, as other obscenely racist dictatorships have shown, that elections cannot make an illegimate political platform legitimate.

Where is the outrage over that?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Recognizing Reality

All day long, we heard fighter jets overhead. This is unusual. Once in a while you hear a pair in the early morning on maneuvers, but not the constant overflights we heard during kiddush.

We knew Something was going on, but couldn't turn on the television.

As soon as Havdalah was over, the phone rang. It was Yossi, wishing us the customary "Shavua tov" but he also urged us to turn on the television, telling us that finally, the Kadima government has recognized reality and responded to Hamas's unceasing barrage of weaponry.

There was a "truce," so called. A period of calm supposedly for six months. There was never calm during that six months and there were attacks on the southern Israel throughout that period. But in deference to Egypt, to Abbas, to the EU and to all the fools who announced that "calm" would bring about dialogue, and from there, peace, Kadima merely uttered empty threats, visited the families of the dead and wounded, tried to talk tough, and merely succeeded in looking ridiculous.

And the missile barrages from Gaza continued.

The so-called "truce" ended December 19th, officially.

Hamas-in-Damascus announced it would not renew the truce. Hamas-in-Gaza said, well, we're thinking about it, we'll let you know.

From November 4th through December 18th, while the "truce" was still in effect, Hamas and its puppets fired 213 rockets and 126 mortar shells into Israel. THAT was during the "truce."

In one of those attacks, a Kassam rocket scored a direct hit on a home in Sderot, wounding the mother of the family and virtually destroying the house. (Remember that Israelis homes aren't wood--they're made of concrete and rebar).

On December 12th, in a jihadist-only kind of protest about the post-Annapolis bilaterial talks, Hamas & Co. launched 20 Kassam rockets at the villages of the western Negev.

On December 20th, while Hamas was still supposedly mulling over renewing the 'truce,' 20 rockets hit Israel, wounding 8 people.

On December 21st, more than 50 rockets and mortars struck southern Israel. Rockets landed in Ashkelon, near an elementary school, near a youth cultural center in the western Negev and a next to home in Sderot. A foreign worker was injured. In response, Israeli forces struck back, hitting at least two rocket launchers in Gaza.

THAT response didn't deter Hamas.

On December 22nd three rockets were fired at Israel in the afternoon and evening,and then Hamas took a 24-hour break, supposedly at the request of Egypt, who is trying to restore the 'truce.'

December 23rd: No truce in sight. Hamas fired at least five rockets into Israel from Gaza.

No more break, it seemed.

On December 24th, more than 60 Qassam rockets and dozens of mortar shells struck homes, factories and a playground in southern Israel. Two long-range Grad-type missiles struck a public area in northern Ashkelon. Homes in Kibbutz Shaar Hanegev and Sdot Negev suffered direct hits. A rocket struck next to a playground in Netivot. One factory in the western Negev was hit twice.

On December 25th, one of the rockets fired from Gaza nearly mowed down Gazan Christian Arab pilgrims on their way out of Hamastan heading to Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas. At noon, another rocket exploded outside an elementary school in Sderot. Ten of the 18 people treated in the aftermath were children.

I am sorry for the civilians in Gaza. Two were killed today by their own people--a little girl and her 12 year old cousin were hit by a Palestinian rocket which fell short and landed in Beit Lehiyah.

It doesn't matter if you live in Sderot or Gaza; or Ashkelon or Rafiah. If you are a civilian, and someone comes to the door to tell you that your child isn't coming home any more, all you know is grief.

I'm sorry it has come to this. But blame Hamas, who has been unceasing in its attacks on Israeli civilians. Blame Hamas, whose political agenda is to end any progress towards peace between Livni and Abbas, and bring Netanyahu, a hardliner, into power in Israel.

"The freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins," a famous American commentator once said. Israel has been taking it on the nose for a couple of years now. The near miss on an elementary school was probably the last straw.

Now, there will either be a new 'truce' or there will be more death in Gaza.

Monday, December 22, 2008


We lost a friend today.

About 15 years ago, early in our marriage, a colleague of mine rescued two kittens abandoned near our work. She brought them into the office and offered to pay for their shots and neutering if other people would adopt them. She couldn't keep them herself as she already had a plethora of pets.

I took one of them and another woman in the office took his twin.

When I brought him home, he was completely terrified of absolutely everything. We assumed his abandonment at a too early age caused his propensity to hide every time someone made a noise. The first few minutes in our home were spent pulling him out from under a piece of furniture that we had mistakenly assumed was too small for him to crawl under. Someone ringing the doorbell sent him flying for cover. (One time there was an advertisement on television which featured a doorbell ringing and that also sent him flying out of the living room, up the stairs and under the bed.)

We called him Oreo because when he curled up in a little kittenish ball of fur to sleep, he looked like an Oreo cookie in layers of black and white and black.

The first night in our home, we settled him into an impromptu pet-bed to sleep, and went upstairs. We next heard a little tiny 'meow' followed by a 'thump,' then another 'meow' followed by another 'thump' until he managed to meow his way up the staircase and into our bedroom, where he sat by my side of the bed and meowed piteously until I picked him up, laid him beside me, where he fell asleep, warm and purring. He never gave up sleeping on the bed after that....

When we made aliyah, he came with us. True to form, as soon as he made it to the new apartment, he tried to hide under the bed. The beds had storage units underneath, and he was a grown male cat by this time, weighing in at 10 pounds or so....no way was he going to fit. He was so frantic to find a place to hide that we took pity on him, purchased one of those small doggie beds with a cover, draped an old towel over it and gave it to him as an 'instant cave' where he could retreat from the world.

He wasn't afraid of the dog or the other cats, however. As a matter of fact, he was pretty adamant about his place in the pecking order. He figured out early on that the way to psych the dog into abandoning her spot on the couch was to walk over her--which sent her to the floor while he commandeered the spot she had warmed.

He was one of the most affectionate cats we'd ever lived with. He loved to be petted, although not held. If you stopped petting him and he wasn't ready for you to stop, he would reach out with a paw and grab your hand, as if to say, "Please, may I have some more."

He was a gentle giant with a ready purr.

We noticed he had lost some weight this summer, and attributed it to the presence of Whisper, the youngest addition to the cat collection, who made sure he was always at the food bowl first. Then we noticed he was having problems jumping up to the shelf on which the food bowl rested. Getting up to high places seemed to be more difficult. "Old age," we thought, and lifted him to the bowl. Then we noticed he wasn't grooming himself as well past the waistline--and cats are fanatic groomers. "Ah, arthritis," we concluded, and began brushing him regularly to help. After our move in November, we noticed a steady loss of weight but otherwise he was still feisty.

Last week, he began to sleep all of the time, stirring a little at night to eat and drink. I would pick him up and he would complain, but then, he never liked being picked up. But he was terribly thin.

This week, he stopped eating and drinking. He lay quietly on the floor, generally in a cool spot out of the traffic pattern. He made no noise, made no complaint. When I picked him up to put him on the bed, he was as light as a feather.

I took him to the vet tonight. He was dying and we knew it. The vet thought it could be cancer. He wasn't our first cat, and we had watched others pass into the Twilight in like circumstances.

I said 'good-bye' and held him while the vet sedated him. This is my job -- The Husband is a softie and doesn't want to cry in public, I suspect, so he delegates the Final Good-Bye to me. I am Woman -- it doesn't matter if I cry in front of the vet.

In my mind, I still hear "meow"-thump on the staircase of my memory, and feel the weight of ten pounds of warm purr at the end of the bed, a gentle paw on my face in the morning.

Good-bye, Oreo. We miss you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


For a People who has faced extinction at the hands of tyrants who have publicly proclaimed their intention to rid their nation (or more lately, the world) of Jews more than once, and who has watched the world crack a yawn and not lift a finger to help us, Jews, and especially those of us under the nuclear gun in Israel, are not too keen to play chicken with Iran's Ahmadinijhad.

The German Jews were fully assimilated nationals of Germany. Many of the men had fought for the Kaiser and their country in World War One. They believed, as cultured, educated and enlightened Westerners, that the barbarism Hitler was preaching was simply an anachronistic appeal to the German Street, beset by financial failure, soaring inflation and post-war resentments.

"But we're Germans," they assured each other and themselves. But they were slaughtered as Jews, stripped of their citizenship and reminded yet again that the Jew was always a foreigner in Europe, always an Asiatic, always The Other against which Christian triumphalism and German racism played out.

There used to be a poster in the States that read, "Being Paranoid Doesn't Mean That They're Not Really Out To Get You." It's a sentiment that many Israelis believe reflects the reality of life here.

I'm not even sure I can describe the Israeli world-view as paranoid. Rather, it is realistic (current crop of politicos excepted--Olmert & Co. are delusional). The Jews realized in the 1920s that Arab xenophobia, fed by Haj Amin el Husseini's venomous diatribes, was leading to mass murder and the British Mandatory Power in charge of things here simply looked the other way. After all, el Husseini was their appointment, so why would they take action to protect a bunch of Jews? Riots and murders of the 1920s and the 1930s resulted in large British yawns of indifference and a very British conclusion that the best thing to do would be to kick the Jews out of their homes in places like Hebron, rather than actually police the country and do something about el Husseini's incitements to murder.

While the British armed the Arab Legion and other irregulars to the teeth in 1947 and 1948, the rest of the world yawned again, wished the nascent State of Israel "good luck over there," and watched us get invaded by neighbors who loudly proclaimed their intention to kill every Jew in the land. Even the United States didn't really give a fig, tied up in the Cold War with Russia, until after 1967-- then when Israel beat off Russia's pawns (Syria and Egypt) the U.S. suddenly started to pay attention and decided that Israel might have its uses. The American Cold War Doctrine at the time was "Containment" -- no outright conflict with Russia, but little proxy wars all over the place fought by other countries were all right.

Unfortunately, Israel became the U.S. proxy by default -- Syria and Egypt opened their ports, their military bases and their training academies to Russian 'advisors' and under the rubric of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend,' the U.S. stopped looking askance at Israel and began to see us as useful idiots for containing Russian ambition in the neighborhood.

But it is instructive to remember that immediately prior to the Six Day War, the United States couldn't be bothered to intervene when the Straits of Tiran were closed and Egypt moved its army up to Gaza--the U.S. was too busy with something called "Viet Nam" and basically told Israel "You're on your own--good luck."

Israelis know this. The Arab and popular Western misconception that Israel has always been America's buddy is simply not true. Nations don't have friends--nations have interests, one diplomat put it baldly. Israel was a U.S. interest only for as long as it took to cap Soviet ambitions in the neighborhood. Now that the U.S. has a different agenda (including such ego-boosting legacies as being the "only U.S. president who could bring peace to the Middle East"--that always tantalizing carrot) Israel and Israeli concerns and fears, are more of an obstacle to U.S. plans.

Hence, Israeli fears of being abandoned once again by the world when Ahmadinijhad sends nuclear-tipped missiles towards Tel Aviv are not solely the product of paranoia. Those fears are based on a long history of being killed by Gentiles while other Gentiles have stood by and done nothing.

This is why some people are seriously considering bombing Iran.

Despite my awareness of this history, despite my firm belief that the West will simply ignore Tehran's belligerence as long as it is directly only against Israel,
I am firmly opposed to bombing Iran.

Why? Because everything I first learned about Iran and Islam I learned from Masoudah Ayatollahi. She was my roommate and friend in college. She was from Tehran, a graduate student at my university, and both devoutly Moslem and very western at the same time. She dressed like a university student then -- jeans and long-sleeved T-shirts. She fasted during Ramadan. She missed her family terribly and called them weekly. Our house was always filled with Iranian students who were her friends. She and I shared a household prohibition against cooking pork, and I defended her prohibition of cooking with wine (unheard of in California) on the ground of consistency--no picking and choosing of religious dietary restrictions. She was kind, beautiful, knowledgeable, devoted to her family and to her country.

But not to the Shah. I heard enough about the secret police system under the Shah that I could appreciate the students' desire for an Islamic Republic. I also understood from these same students that what today is called the Islamic Republic was not at all what they had in mind.....a dictatorship by Mullah is really no different than a dictatorship by Shah.

While in school with us in California, she met and married another Iranian graduate student. They started a family, and returned to Iran. The last thing I heard from them was that he had taken his family to Libya to work as a chemical engineer there, in order to avoid his boys being swept up as "volunteers" to clear mine fields in the Iran-Iraq War.

I'm sure they returned to Iran. Her family is in Tehran; his family is in Isfahan. Do they want a country that isn't a puppet of some Great Power? Yes. Did they think the Islamic Revolution would replace the Shah's secret police with the mullahs' secret police? No. Naive? Maybe--but students are always more optimistic about change than those of us who have lived long enough to be wary of it.

All I know is that Masoudah and her family live somewhere in Iran. I don't want them hurt. I don't want us hurt.

Knowing Masoudah, knowing her friends, I have perhaps more hope in the Iranian people than those Israelis who haven't known any of them. Certainly my group of Iranians isn't representative of all Iranians--not everyone learned English and studied abroad--but what I learned from them in those years gives me hope today that the Iranian people themselves don't have a burning desire to commit genocide in the name of the Revolution.

Despite the odious silence of the gentile world down the centuries in the face of pogroms, expulsions, riots and mass murder on an unimaginable scale, I have faith in the Master of the Universe that He will not allow us to perish.....and I know Masoudah has faith in the Merciful One that He will watch over her family, her children and her nation.

I would like to believe that Jews and Iranians both can give more credit to their faith in the Almighty than to the doomsday predictions of their leadership, and that we can restrain ourselves from giving in to our fears, and refrain from the perhaps unrecoverable blunder of a military attack.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Truce? What Truce? Anyone Notice A Truce Around Here?

Stop the presses! This just in! SkyNews announced tonight that Hamas is probably not going to renew its truce with Israel! The Jerusalem Post wrote "Senior Hamas officials in Syria announced that the Gaza cease-fire with Israel, set to expire on December 19, would not be extended."

WHAT truce?!

1,212 rockets and 1,290 mortar bombs fired from the Gaza Strip have struck southern Israel between January 1, 2008 and November 20, 2008. This doesn't count the missiles and mortars that either misfired or fell on Gazan territory. These are actual "hits" in Israel.

Some truce.....

I gather we can all assume that Hamas is nicely armed to the teeth by its friends in Tehran and the Arab League, and is now ready to resume non-truce hostilities.

"We have used the 'calm' period to prepare and we have many surprises," Hamas officials said.

Ah, surprises! And just in time for the holidays!

In fact, I suspect it has more to do with the upcoming Israeli elections than anything else. Hamas would love to see Livni and the Kadima/Labor axis out, since that crowd is still working the lounges for a 'peace process,' and Hamas is quite well-versed in the Israeli temperament (remember Operation Defensive Shield?) -- blow up a few buses, shoot up a kindergarten, and voila! Bibi/Likud will take the election in a landslide.

And rightly so. There is no comparable "peace movement" in the Palestinian territories. Today Ahmed Qurei called for the "transfer" of all Jews out of the West Bank, even if they wanted to remain as Palestinian citizens. This is Arab racism, pure and simple. The very suggestion that Umm el Fahm rightly belongs on the Palestinian side of the border elicits howls of outrage and accusations of ethnic cleansing (note that this is a border adjustment, not a massacre) by the Arabs--Israel can't evict Arabs, even those openly promoting sedition, but the Palestinians get a pass on their racist insistence on expelling Jews.

As long as the Arabs, whether Hamasnikim in Gaza, or racists in Ramallah, aren't willing to budge an inch, then the peace process and the moderates in the Israeli government will fail.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

'Tis the Season....

The chanukiot are out; the sufganiyot are multiplying; the malls are running sales---it must be time for Chanukkah!

It's shaping up to be a grim season.....lay-offs in high tech are multiplying, which is having a 'scare effect' among Israelis generally. Some people who are still getting their paychecks and still employed in that sector are nonetheless seeing cut-backs: no year-end bonus; a memo that next year there is no car -- need to drive? Buy or lease your own.

Hi-tech certainly doesn't run Israel, but this is a small country and a hit in one area affects everyone. A major appliance repair company has gone bankrupt, putting over 300 repairmen out of work. A leading provider of private tutoring services in Jerusalem has decamped in the middle of the night, leaving tutors without their paychecks and students and parents without the tutoring they've already paid for.

Do you know why an earthquake is so damaging? It isn't the fact that the ground moves. It's the pressure waves that the ground movement sets off that cause the damage.

Here we have similar economic pressures generated from a single event: when hundreds of high-tech workers are laid off, there are fewer people buying or leasing cars; those laid off are spending less on food and only buying necessities; a family whose major breadwinner is suddenly unemployed isn't going out to dinner; the budget-conscious start skipping the Bissli and expensive yoghurts for the kids' lunches; the still-working spouse economizes by making and taking her lunch to work instead of buying a sandwich or a salad at Sambooki.....

It's the trickle-down effect of fear that is putting a crimp in things. One woman, who usually took a cab to shop, was recently told by her husband to take the bus. He still has his job, but is bracing for future cuts and economizing now.

One man, employed as a sales rep for a major food company, watched in dismay as the company laid off a colleague. The colleague has five kids and his wife doesn't work outside the home. "Don't do this," the still-employed fellow begged his supervisor. "If you have to lay someone off, lay me off -- I don't have a family or a mortgage." (They laid off the guy with the family anyway).

I was in Ne'eman Bakery on Friday. Lunch rolls, which had been 5 for 10 shekels, are now 7 for 10 shekels.

Yossi told us that some of the cab drivers who rent their cabs from owners who operate cab fleets, are turning in their cabs and quitting. So few people are taking taxis that these cabbies can't make their daily expenses, much less make money to put food on the table. Yossi owns his own cab, so he doesn't pay rent to anyone, but he told us that every taxi driver still working has to work much longer hours to make the same money he or she made six months ago: what drivers used to earn by four in the afternoon they now don't make until nine or ten o'clock at night.

We talked to the manager/owner of a major coffee shop in the area. The lines that used to crowd their counter at lunch time have vanished. It used to be impossible to find a table at 1:00 pm. Not now. There is seldom a line, and there are plenty of tables.

Stores in Malcha Mall are having huge sales. Several shop owners told us that they're hoping to survive the season -- the sales are to move inventory and generate cash, because no one is buying.

A friend of mine went to Tel Aviv on business last week. He was propositioned in a parking garage as he paid for the parking slip by an attractive young woman who clearly wasn't a professional or drug abuser, but had a lean and hungry look to her. "Listen, motek, I only have 15 shekels," he explained, trying to put her off without offending her. "I'll do you for ten," she responded desperately.

The Wall Street Journal published a piece on Friday stating that economists are predicting that the recession will be over by June. I'm hoping for April.

It's time to hang together. Hang on to your jobs, if you have them. If you can afford it, tip your waitress, your cab-driver, and the kid who delivers the groceries because they're struggling to make it through this period and with less of a margin for error than most of us. If you can afford it, send something to your favorite Israeli charity that provides heat, clothing or food--because we need to watch out for each other right now. Use that tzeddakah box and don't turn away anyone. Assume in these hard times that if someone asks for help, they really need it. Not many of us own fields any more, but if you have gleanings from your paychecks for the poorer among us, now is the time to make them available.

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